Saturday, February 01, 2014

Monarch Butterflies

Saturday, February 1, 2014
14.9° this morning which is a great surprise after almost three weeks of zero to far below zero weather that began with a high temperature of +52° in Burlington, Vermont.  That left us shaking our heads. We have some much nicer weather coming soon and there's somewhat of a promise for some snow to help our winter sports industry that we depend on so much. At this very same time, maple syrup producers around the state are in their sugar orchards cutting up downed trees and cleaning things up for new tap lines, repairing line damage caused by staggering moose and chewing red squirrels. Some sugaring always starts in February and lots is up in the air this year because the weather has been so odd.
There has been lots of talk about last year's monarch butterfly population and I have beaten this up enough on my Facebook pages. Check out my personal George Africa page or our Like page for Vermont Flower Farm and Gardens. All I want to repeat here is brief mention of some plants that do the trick in luring in Monarchs if they are in the neighborhood.
Pictured up top here is some eupatorium, commonly known as Joe Pye Weed. I think that one is maculatum 'Gateway'. Besides the natives that grow wild and over lots of New England, there are some fine hybrids like Gateway which grows to 10 feet tall.
Eupatorium maculatum 'Reisenschrim' pictured here coming into bloom is a real Monarch magnet. I haven't found it for sale in a few years and have some large plants for sale in limited quantity. It maintains a 5 foot height, sometimes to 6 feet.
There's no doubt that color is important to Monarchs including anything close to the bright orange they display. One year--perhaps in about 2008-- I was preparing more land for daylily gardens. I always use flagging markers in various colors that I can see from the tractor as I rototill. That afternoon I was using orange markers--no special reason why--and by the time I got them lined out and got on the tractor, I noticed most of them had a Monarch butterfly sitting on top. Quite a surprise for me!
Another flower, this time an annual, that draws in any Monarchs if they are passing by is Tithonia. This is like a giant Mexican zinnia and the color is special. I first grew it when we gardened in Shelburne Vermont in an old barn yard and farm pasture. It grew so tall--10 feet anyway--that Gail and I needed ladders to cut it for the markets. Back then, it was always a cloud of Monarchs.
Finally there is milkweed. The wild species is very common in Vermont although much of it has been destroyed as farm fields have become roads or developments. It is easy to grow and it does best where there is some moisture to the soil. We leave it to produce wherever it is already growing. Here's a picture.

There are many lists of other suitable plants available on the Internet. Look closely and make sure they are zoned for your area and also be sure you are not adding to an invasive problem you don't want to see. If you find some good plants that work for you, please drop us a line and share what you find!
Writing from the mountain above Peacham Pond where it's windless and still too dark out to see.......anything.
George Africa
The Vermont Gardener
Always here to help you grow your green thumb!

1 comment:

Debbie Teashon said...

The one thing I miss after moving up to Washington state is the monarch butterflies. Where I lived in Ashland, Oregon the asclepias grew wild there too. If we had them here I would definitely be planting the milkweed for their caterpillars. We collected the chrysalis when I was a kid. to watch them turn into a butterfly. Really fascinated me then.